Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Squeezing Exercise Into Your Insane Schedule

This post is dedicated to my sister who has three young boys, a career, and is also a “Suzy-Homemaker”. She requested this topic, so I’ll do my best to cover it well!

First, let me begin by recognizing the fact that all of you readers have a lot of different situations that make it difficult for you to squeeze exercise in. There is no one-size-fits-all fix to the problem of having no time. So, while I will make suggestions and try to help you all brainstorm ways to integrate more activity into your life, know that you have to change your mindset before you can change your schedule to fit exercise in.

In order to have to time to exercise, you must make time. It is just like money! Sure, I have enough money for a freezer to store food; but I do not have enough money to go to a rock concert. That sounds silly doesn’t it? A freezer costs a lot more! The difference is that I see a need for the freezer and I value what that money will buy me. At this point, I just don’t want to put money towards tickets to go to a rock concert because the value of it isn’t that great at this juncture. Now, transfer the same idea to time. We all have 24 hours in each day and we have to decide what to do with those hours. It is up to YOU!

Another important piece to this puzzle is that you have to want to exercise. You will always find a reason to not exercise if you do not want to. I know that my sister, for instance, will run any time she gets the chance! If she didn’t really want to exercise, she would find something to fill that small block of time that opened.

Now that we’re all in a good mindset, let’s talk about ways to cram some activity into your day! Do you not have 30 continuous minutes that you can devote to exercise? Here is an example of how to sprinkle exercise throughout your day. Meet Jane! Jane wakes up every morning five minutes before she needs to start getting ready for work. During those five minutes, she does one set of as many push-ups as she can, completes 30 jumping jacks, then does another set of as many push-ups as she can. During her morning conference call, she stands up and walks in place for 20 minutes. When lunchtime arrives, she is swamped with work so she continues to work mostly through her break while eating at her desk. However, she escapes from her office building for a ten-minute walk before her lunch break is over. At the end of the day, she needs to stop at the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk. She parks as far away as she can and jogs up to the front of the store, takes one lap around the store, picks up her milk, pays for it, then walks back to her car. After serving her family dinner, they let the dishes sit (hey, it never killed anyone) and go outside for a friendly game of tag. After about 30 minutes it starts to get dark, so they go back inside and everyone pitches in to clean up. Later, while the kids are getting ready for bed, Jane pulls out her free-weights and does about ten minutes of strength moves. Finally, after the children go to bed, Jane has filled her day with activity, even though she had a jam-packed day.

Jane’s day was just to give you examples of how you might be creative and fit activity in wherever you can. With today’s schedules, you really have to be creative! Even though your life may be very different from Jane’s, use her story as a way to start brainstorming on how your day could be different!

Here are some general tips for fitting more activity into your day:
1. Make it a family affair: play a sport, go for a walk, or do something active together.
2. Never look for an up-close spot wherever you are parking!
3. Know that 10 minutes of continuous activity is enough to achieve a disease-fighting benefit. You could sprinkle 10-minute walks throughout your day to achieve the recommended 30 minutes of moderate activity.
4. Take the stairs, always! Elevators are great if you are using crutches, a wheel chair, or are carrying something very heavy. Otherwise, do you really need to ride the elevator? If you’re traveling up a lot of flights, it is okay to take breaks, or compromise by riding the elevator halfway. Before you know it, you’ll be able to climb up the whole way!
5. Be active while watching television: use free-weights, do push-ups or crunches, do jumping jacks, or just walk in place!
6. Never sit for more than an hour! Get up at least once per hour and walk in place for a few minutes.
7. Wear a pedometer. You’ll be surprised at how much more you will walk with one on as you’re always trying to get your step-count higher!
8. Consider exercising/going for a walk during your lunch hour.
9. Rather than calling your co-worker who is a few cubicles away, get up and go talk to him/her. Every little bit helps!
10. Increasing your exercise intensity can make-up for lacking time to do a longer workout. For instance, a fast paced, 20-minute run may burn a similar amount of calories as a slower 40-minute run.
11. Plan ahead for exercise. At the beginning of the week, look at your planner and decide when you can make time for it.

I’d love to hear how you squeeze exercise in! Please share ways that you interject activity into your day!


  1. "Official" exercise is squeezed-in by either waking up semi-ridiculously early, before 3 small children are up-and-about, or at the end of the work day.

    Unofficial exercise involves above 3 small children, at least one of whom wants to be carried at all times, while living in a two-story house. :)

  2. Just think of carrying around a small child as a weight-bearing exercise. When my children were young, like 3 and 5, we would run around the house and have races. They seemed to enjoy that.

  3. This is a "no excuses" post for sure. How could I possibly come up with an excuse after reading this!! I do various things such as: ride my bike, but not often enough, walk the stairway in my house, walk outside, but again not often enough. I am going to change my ways :)

  4. -Busy-Dad-E: That is great that you are getting structured exercise and physical activity in your daily life. A two story house does keep you moving, doesn't it?
    -Diane: That is awesome! Yes, I agree....I went on a walk today and ended up carrying my son part of the way while we looked everywhere for his lost hat. It was tiring!
    -Erin'sMom: Good girl! All of those things are great...just do them a lot!

  5. Thanks for the post! I squeezed in some strength training today while I carried one child in a baby seat in my left and a two year old in my right hand while escorting my five year old to gymnastics! Now I am off to do my ab routine! Tomorrow I look forward to a run!

    Here is how I am increasing new neighborhood is FULL of hills!